28 June 2008

Confessions

I have something to tell you.

Tonight, I ate three, count them, one, two, three dinners. This may be the first time. Sure, I've spent many nights eating second dinner, but that was par for the course. I was in grad school. I was working all the time and was always hungry. I had friends that had second lunches and dinners, thus obfuscating their absurdity. What do you want? But now I seem to have sunk to a new low-- no one ever needs to eat three dinners. Especially when the first one was so lovely and delicious.

You see, there are a few things at stake right now.

First of all, as you know, I don't really like sandwiches. And yet I made myself a sandwich for dinner. More on that once I explain issue number two.
Which is to say that Jeff has been gone all day (and all night, too, check out the time stamp). Now, this may not be the best thing to admit, but when Jeff is gone, I give myself leave to eat whatever I want. Not in a gluttonous, cardiac-arrest inducing way, of course, but, you know, sounds good. So tonight, I have eaten, to wit:

1. The infamous dinner sandwich (thanks to a little guidance from Thomas Keller): a BLT with a little bit of my divine pesto that was left over from the other night on toasted whole-grain bread, courtesy of Silver Moon bakery and a fried egg (the picture in my magazine made it look GREAT, and HOO BOY do I LOVE bacon)
2. A small salad
3. Beer
4. Leftover pasta from last night (just a little)
5 Leftover spicy chickeny...stuff from the other night when I made tostadas, complete with broken tostadas for dipping/munching

The last time I had a night like this we still lived in Madison. Jeff went to Minneapolis for work, in winter. I made a quiche. Of which I proceeded to eat two thirds. Let me tell you: quiche is a marvelous food to eat by oneself. I highly recommend it. Especially if no one is there to comment on how that much cream, egg, and bacon just can't be good for you. There are no distractions: just the soft, delicious goodness floating on a buttery, crumbly crust.

The thing is that Jeff is much more a sensible eater than I, and he therefore often inspires me to be a more sensible eater. See, had Jeff been here, a few hours after First Dinner (items one through three), he probably would have gotten hungry, moped around about not having pizza in the freezer, and then settled on fruit. Or a bite of ice cream. Or some crackers laced with peanut butter. Or another beer. Me, however, I'm stuck with wanting all sorts of food at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes I am on the pizza train withe Jeff. Sometimes not. Ask me what I want, anything I want to eat, and I will probably name something tasty that either I do not have the ingredients to make, cannot get to, or don't want to pay for. That or it is too late to start cooking, I won't want to clean up, or I have to go to bed anyway so I don't even bother. I'll just whine about it until I become too unbearable even for myself and I manage either to go to bed or to chill out.

But what a wonderful thing it is, to be content with one's belly. Should you get the chance to treat yourself to your indulgence, I totally recommend it.

26 June 2008

CSA.1

Did I ever mention that we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)? This year, we decided to take the plunge into local produce. It was high time we put our money where our mouths are. After much debate, we chose to get fruit every other week. For me, fruit is one of those things that I never think to buy, even though I love it, so this was the perfect opportunity to get it. Who doesn't love fruit? Especially during the summer?



For our first week, we got a quart of strawberries and some rhubarb. Even though we lamented their appearance (their not being so sweet or delicate as those at the farmer's market), they tasted great. Seriously, we gobbled them up before there was any opportunity to think about doing anything yummy (i.e. make something with them). However, rhubarb demands a process (unless you're my friend Theresa, who apparently eats them dipped in sugar--YIKES), so I made compote. It was beautiful: vibrantly pink and soft and lovely. It shone like gems in a bowl. (Sorry about the lack of photo. Just try to trust me on this one.) But should you make it, don't let the softness fool you: rhubarb is bracing, even with a little sugar.



I highly recommend it.

Rhubarb Compote**, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

2 stalks fresh rhubarb
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

1. Rinse the rhubarb and cut it into 1/2-inch pieces. If there are any leaves, discard them, as they are actually poisonous.

2. In a small bowl, sprinkle the sugar over the rhubarb and let it sit until the fruit starts to exude some juice, 20 minutes or so.

3. Put the rhubarb mixture into a small saucepan and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes. Cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

**NB: The original recipe makes a lot. This version makes a little.

17 June 2008

Heat

Summer has arrived, and with a vengeance. A serious vengeance. Last week we were mid 90s, humidity, the works. (Luckily, we don't live in our nation's capitol, which to hear a few people tell the sorry tale, was nothing but misery--misery.) We caved and bought an air conditioner, something that we hadn't even considered when we lived in Madison, for reasons I'm not entirely aware of but that Jeff seems to remember when pressed, and *PRESTO!* our apartment has reached a level comfortable enough for living.

But seriously, even when the heat isn't on, at least in the house, who wants to eat anything warm? This is exceptionally problematic, especially if you happen to be me. I mean, let's be honest. The few foods I don't especially like fall into the category of "cold food", such as sandwiches (I know, I know, OK? It's not like I've never tried. And there are a few exceptions to the rule, but... maybe that's for another time) and cereal. And eggplant. And mayonnaise. (Though, to be fair, I've never made my own, and I think I would like it if I did. And there is that pesto mayonnaise that they put on the BLTs at Café Soleil that truly makes divinity out of that *gulp* sandwich... I said there were exceptions, right?)



So, for the hot days, we've been eating a lot of salad, which, admittedly, is another one of those foods that I'm not terribly fond of--it's such a fussy food! Lettuce(s)! Vegetables! Small pieces! Dressing! Wash and dry! I contend that salad is only good IFF there are the following ingredients: avocado, bacon, eggs, and croutons. I don't necessarily have to have all of them at once, but they certainly help.

The other thing that I've been making, and which is very, very good, and that has been very, very appearing in the heat, is the Peppery Bulgar Salad from Claudia Roden's Arabesque. This salad is a nice alternative to tabbouleh (memories of which linger on in my memory as green sandy substance covered in plastic wrap in my parent's refrigerator--let's remember that I didn't like cold food as a child--that was very, very unappealing). It's one of those no-fail salads that is good every single time you make it (which, probably is what can be said of tabbouleh, as long as I make and it doesn't come from a box--sorry, Mom). And it's very forgiving, too--the amounts of the different ingredients don't matter quite so much. It also doubles and triples like a charm. We like to eat this with sautéed chicken and garlic and spices. We LOVE it. You need to make it immediately.

It's that good, I promise. And this from someone who doesn't like cold food.



Peppery Bulgar Salad, adapted from Arabesque

1 cup fine bulgar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1-2 lemons
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 fresh chile pepper, finely diced
salt
1 bunch scallions
3-5 smallish tomatoes, diced
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped mint leaves


1. Put the bulgar into a largeish bowl, pour the boiling water over it, stir, and leave for 15-20 minutes, until the grain is tender. Conveniently, this is just the right amount of time to prepare all the other ingredients!
author's note: Don't be tempted to add more water since the juice from the lemons and tomatoes will soften the grain further.

2. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice, olive oil, chili pepper, and some salt and mix thoroughly. Trim the green tops off the scallion, then slice them finely. Add them and the diced tomatoes to the bulgar mixture, together with the parsely and mint and mix well.

You may want to make this ahead of time to let the flavors meld, especially if you're like me, and always use more lemon juice than the recipe calls for. Note that this also takes a good amount of salt.

Serve and eat at room temperature.